Part 2 of 2
Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family
Nashville: Cumberland House Publishing, 2007
While Michelle Langley focuses on the psychology of “liberated” female sexual behavior, Stephen Baskerville’s Taken into Custody details for us the brutal police-state machinery which has grown up in the past forty years to encourage, enforce, and profit from it. Here is the reality behind such commonplace euphemisms as “marital breakdown” and “custody disputes”:
A man comes home one day to find his house empty. On the table is a note from his wife saying she has taken the children to live with her sister or parents or boyfriend, or to a “battered women’s shelter.” Soon after comes a knock on the door. He is summoned to appear [at] a family court within a few hours. In a hearing that lasts a few minutes his children are legally removed from his care . . . and he is ordered to stay away from them most or all of the time. He is also ordered to begin making child support payments, an order is entered to garnish his wages, and his name is placed on a federal government database for monitoring “delinquents.” If he tries to see his children outside the authorized time, or fails to make the payments, he can be arrested. Without being permitted to speak, he is told the hearing is over.
The man may be accused of domestic violence or child sexual abuse, in which case there may be no hearing at all . . . but the police will simply come to the door and order him to leave his home within hours, or minutes, even if no evidence has been presented against him. . . . The man may also be ordered to pay alimony and the fees of lawyers he has not hired and threatened with arrest if he refuses or is unable. . . . If he refuses to hire a lawyer he will be ordered to pay his spouse’s lawyer. Either way, he will pay $50,000–$150,000 and possibly much more. . . . If he refuses to answer questions or pay he can be jailed without a trial. . . . If he objects, he can be ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
At his “trial,” he will be interrogated about the most intimate details of his family life.
And no answer is correct. If he works long hours, he is a careerist who neglects his children. If he cares for his children, he is failing to earn as much income for them as he might. If he disciplines his children, he is controlling or even abusive. If he does not, he is neglectful. If he does not bathe them, he is neglecting them. If he does, he may be molesting them.
All this costs him “$400–$500 an hour, and the ordeal lasts as long as the lawyers and judge wish to drive up the fees.”
Whatever the outcome of the trial, for the rest of his children’s childhood they and he will live under constant surveillance and control by the court. He will be told when he can see his children, what he can do with them, where he can take them . . . what religious services he may (or must) attend with them and what subjects he may discuss with them in private. . . . He can be ordered to work certain hours and at certain jobs, the earnings from which will be confiscated. . . . If he loses his job or is hospitalized he will be declared a felon and jailed for failure to pay child support. His home can be entered by officials of the court. . . . His financial records will be demanded and examined by the court and his bank account will be raided. . . . His children can be compelled to act as informers against him. He can be ordered to sell his house and turn the proceeds over to attorneys he has not hired.
Baskerville notes that the very monstrousness of the injustices being committed against fathers prevents some people from accepting that they are taking place. A common initial reaction to the horror stories is “if things are really as bad as that, wouldn’t we have heard about it before now?”
There are several reasons. One, of course, is that journalists whose job it is to inform us of corruption in public life prefer to entertain us with features on “gay marriage” and movie stars’ romances. But a second is that the family courts directly retaliate against parents who attempt to organize or speak out. It is a crime in many jurisdictions to criticize a family court judge; where it is not, judges can simply issue individual gag orders from the bench. Baskerville reports instances of fathers who were arrested for talking to reporters about their cases. Sheriff’s deputies photograph protest demonstrations by fathers’ groups. Internet sites have been shut down. Archaic laws against “defamatory libel” and “scandalizing the court” have been resurrected to prosecute critics. Court officials have been deputized to monitor fathers’ criticisms of the court in the press and in their private correspondence (which they can be ordered to hand over on pain of incarceration). Meanwhile, officials are free to discuss the private lives of fathers openly in public meetings and post information about their cases on the Internet.
Family court proceedings occur behind closed doors, and most often no records are kept. In cases where they are, they have sometimes been illegally falsified by unknown persons. Judges cite “family privacy” as the rational for secrecy. But in fact, the Clerk of Courts is required to make plenty of information about “defendants” (fathers) public: Social Security numbers, unlisted telephone numbers, and more. They are prohibited, however, from divulging the name of the judge assigned to the case. Baskerville draws the obvious conclusion: The purpose of all the secrecy and censorship is not to protect family privacy but to allow the courts to invade it with impunity.
A third obstacle to public recognition that innocent men are being railroaded is that fathers themselves believe the propaganda about “deadbeat dads.” Even after becoming victims of the system, they assume some mistake must have been made in their particular case, while other men are the “real” deadbeats the government rightly pursues. An important factor contributing to this misapprehension is a sentimental view of motherhood and female innocence left over from an earlier age but now demonstrably at variance with the facts. One writer quoted by Baskerville reports: “All the domestic relations lawyers I spoke with concurred that in disputes involving child custody women initiate divorce ‘almost all the time.’” Men more often attempt to avoid divorce: “Fifty-eight percent of men delayed their divorce because of its impact on children. Far fewer women [viz., 37 percent] had this worry.”
Many conservatives will no doubt agree that strong-arm methods are unwarranted against lawfully wedded and faithful fathers, but protest that they may be necessary against those scoundrels who “prey upon” women without having escorted them to an altar. Baskerville, however, cites evidence that even unwed fathers do not normally abandon their offspring:
An American study of young, low-income, and unmarried fathers presents a picture that, while far from ideal, does not show them abandoning their children: 63% had only one child; 82% had children by only one mother . . . 70% saw their children at least once a week . . . and large percentages reported bathing, feeding, dressing and playing with their children; and 85% provided informal child support in the form of cash or purchased goods such as diapers, clothing and toys.
Another survey, conducted in the north of England, found that “the most common reason given by the fathers for not having more contact with their children was the mothers’ reluctance to let them.” Here we see one of the reasons for marriage: not to prevent men from absconding, but to prevent women from interfering with the father-child bond.
In other words, fatherhood is natural. If shotgun marriages and child support collection agencies were necessary to force men to provide for their offspring (as so many sanctimonious male commentators imply), civilization could never have arisen in the first place. The human male simply cannot be as bad as now routinely portrayed, whether by hate-filled feminists or pharisaical conservatives.
Here are just a few more highlights from Baskerville’s relentless catalogue of divorce industry injustices:
A man in the United Kingdom received a sentence of ten months for greeting his child on the street.
Children have been jailed for refusal to testify against their fathers. A seventeen-year-old girl was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by two male police detectives for refusal to leave her father’s apartment.
Fathers have been kept away from the bedsides of their dying children.
Custodial parents are not answerable to anyone for use of child support payments, and need not spend any of it on the children. States use “child support” money to balance their budgets, or for any other purpose they please.
Some states have instituted “expedited judicial processes” in which fathers are summoned to appear not before judges but before “judicial commissioners” or “marital masters,” essentially ordinary lawyers dressed up in judge’s robes. These persons sometimes double as lobbyists for legislation relating to child support.
In Warren County, Pennsylvania, a man was threatened with prison unless he signed a preprinted confession stating “I have physically and emotionally battered my partner. . . . I am responsible for the violence I used. My behavior was not provoked.”
Private companies have been dragooned into performing surveillance functions for the divorce regime. Employers are required by law to inform on all employees, including those who have never been ordered to pay child support. The information goes into a National Directory of New Hires, maintained for use against any persons who might get behind on child support in the future. This practice “annexes the personnel offices of private companies as administrative agents of the government.” Efforts are underway to make similar use of churches and community organizations such as the YMCA and United Way.
Child support is demanded from men who have been proven not to be the fathers of the children in question. Women are sometimes allowed to collect full child support from more than one man.
In the U.K. and Australia, it has been proposed to outlaw home paternity testing kits available from private companies, so that men may be arrested for attempting to prove they are not the fathers of the children they have been ordered to support.
Also in Britain, feminist groups and bureaucrats can bring domestic violence charges against men they target as abusers on the theory that the victim herself “should be spared having to take legal action.” These third-party accusers do not have to provide evidence that the alleged victim even exists.
Some mothers in Massachusetts report being pressured and threatened by social service agents with the loss of their children if they refuse to divorce their husbands.
There are now moves afoot to prosecute “deadbeat accomplices,” meaning parents or second wives or other relatives of child support extortionees. One second wife was charged with “harboring a fugitive.” Such persons’ bank accounts may be seized to pay child support for the fathers they are “abetting.”
Teenage boys statutorily raped by adult women may be held liable for child support paid to those women.
In one weird case in Iowa, an eleven-year-old boy’s savings (from chores such as shoveling snow) were confiscated by the state in order to pay child support for himself—possible since, as a minor, his father’s name was also on his bank account.
Most disturbingly of all, to my mind: Fathers have been ordered to submit to something called a “plethysmograph,” in which an electronic sheath is placed over the penis while they are made to view pornographic movies involving children.
Baskerville lists numerous legal guarantees violated by family courts, including several Amendments to the Constitution, the presumption of innocence, the separation of powers, habeas corpus and the prohibitions against double jeopardy, ex post facto laws and bills of attainder. The courts openly acknowledge that Constitutional guarantees do not apply in their proceedings—justified, it is asserted, because they are courts of “equity” rather than law. Federal courts never review cases involving family law; family courts are accountable only to review boards dominated by bar associations, i.e., by lawyers with a pecuniary interest in maximizing extortions from divorced men. Baskerville rightly notes an odd circumstance: A vast literature exists castigating the judicial branch for usurping legislative power, ignoring original intent, misapplying the Fourteenth Amendment, and various other sins; but the family court system, which has a greater influence on more people’s lives, has almost entirely escaped scrutiny.
Feminist ideology certainly played a role in creating the current situation; but, as usual, more was involved than ideas having consequences. Much of the divorce industry’s growth has simply been an instance of the normal tendency of bureaucrats to seek to increase their wealth and power. For most of these persons, feminism has been more pretext than motivation. The judges, indeed, “promiscuously invoke both the traditional stereotypes about motherhood and modern ideas of women’s rights.” Probably most have no deep convictions at all in the matter.
The same gap between rationalizing rhetoric and the reality of material interest is visible throughout the divorce industry, which consists not only of judges and lawyers, but also a bevy of “experts”—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mediators, custody evaluators, visitation monitors, and instructors for mandatory “parenting education” and “anger management” classes. All are paid through forced exactions from fathers.
Psychotherapists are ubiquitous in the industry, in part because they fear insufficient demand for their services on the market. One attorney says “if you put ten psychiatrists in a room you’ll get ten different opinions.” Baskerville gives just one example: A father was diagnosed by one psychiatrist as having both a “dysthymic disorder” and a “mixed personality disorder,” which included “obsessive-compulsive behavior, rigidity, grandiose thinking, and passive-aggressive traits”; a second psychiatrist came up with “schizotypal personality disorder” instead. Such “expert opinions” are rarely presented in open court, so there is no possibility of cross-examination, and the psychiatrists may be covered by judicial immunity, so they cannot be held accountable for their testimony. As one law professor asks: “What made all these people all of a sudden lunatics and unfit to parent?”
Obviously, the job of the expert is to provide a veneer of rationality for court decisions which are either wholly arbitrary or made on other grounds, such as maximizing the amount of money extracted from the father. If a family court does not have access to some arcane art of determining “the best interests of the child,” its claim to be engaged in anything more than kidnapping collapses. (Pseudorationality of this sort is a prominent feature of managerial rule in general: Does anyone seriously believe, e.g., that corporate “diversity consultants” are in possession of some profound science the rest of us lack?) It is not altogether surprising that little training is necessary to qualify as such an “expert.” Courts may appoint “persons with only undergraduate degrees or less, one or two weekend seminars or workshops, and maybe a four-hour in-service training program.”
As always, the wielders of power claim the moral high ground. “Fathers almost universally report being insulted and harangued with the obiter dicta of judges as if they were naughty boys or juvenile delinquents,” Baskerville writes. The New York Daily News produced a credulous report on the “parent education classes” judges now commonly order divorcing couples to attend; these are said to be necessary in order to “[t]each them how to behave; maybe even shame them into acting their age.”
The author devotes twenty pages to an historical sketch of federal involvement in child support collection. It began not as a response to any widespread problem of parental abandonment but to political pressure from feminist groups and bar associations. President Ford somewhat reluctantly signed legislation creating the Office of Child Support Enforcement in 1975, warning that it was an unwarranted federal intrusion into families and the role of the states. The original rational was that the government would save on welfare payments to unmarried mothers by getting the fathers to pay more. Critics pointed out at the time that most welfare mothers did not even have child support orders, and most of the fathers were too poor in any case to pay what the mothers received in welfare benefits.
In 1988, Congress passed the Family Support Act, with two key provisions: (1) states were required to implement presumptive (and virtually compulsory) child support guidelines; and (2) the use of criminal enforcement machinery was extended from welfare cases to all child support orders.
Non-welfare fathers are both far more numerous and wealthier than the fathers of welfare babies originally targeted. Today, non-welfare fathers account for 83 percent of child support cases (a proportion which continues to grow) and 92 percent of the money collected. Yet there had never been a serious problem of nonpayment on the part of these men. Since 1988, increasing revenue has been the real aim of the program, and the supposed need to force “deadbeats” to support their children has never been anything but a hoax intended to confuse the public.
Oddly, the program actually loses money at the federal level; it cost taxpayers $2.7 billion in 2002, for example, and the deficit continues to increase. This money gets paid out to state officials as an incentive to increase the amount they collect: The more they extort from fathers, the more the federal government rewards them, regardless of whether the men are guilty of anything. In 2002, for example, Ohio collected $228 million, while California got $640 million.
In order to receive their cut of the swag, states are required to channel payments through their criminal enforcement machinery. In other words, they must treat all divorced fathers, even those who pay their child support in full and on time, like criminals. And they do; officials boast of collecting so-and-so many millions of dollars “from deadbeats.” Criminality is simply ascribed by the government to every divorced father.
Current child support guidelines, Baskerville reports, are largely the creation of one man, a Dr. Robert Williams. In 1987, he founded Policy Studies Inc., a “private” consulting and collection agency targeting government contracts in child support enforcement. Simultaneously, in his capacity as consultant for the Department of Health and Human Services, he drew up a set of model child support guidelines. Obviously, his business interests were best served by making the guidelines as onerous as possible. In Baskerville’s words, “only by creating a level of obligation high enough to create hardship for fathers can the guidelines create a large enough pool of defaulters to ensure profits and demand for the services of his private collection agency.”
It worked. The following year, as mentioned, the Family Support Act was passed, requiring states to implement their own child support guidelines in order to qualify for federal handouts, and they were given a short time in which to draw them up. Most did the easiest thing and simply adopted Williams’ own guidelines endorsed by HHS. As government began whipping up “deadbeat dad” hysteria, his company’s earnings soared.
A number of state courts have ruled against the guidelines. A Georgia superior court described them as “contrary to common sense,” since they bear no relation to the actual costs of raising children. Furthermore, they create “a windfall to the oblige. . . . The presumptive award leaves the non-custodial parent in poverty while the custodial parent enjoys a notable higher standard of living.” A Wisconsin court pointed out that the state guidelines would “result in a figure so far beyond the child’s needs as to be irrational.” All such rulings were reversed on government appeal.
Divorced fathers have their cars booted and their driver’s and professional licenses revoked, which prevents them from getting or keeping employment. They routinely lose their houses, and many end up in homeless shelters, which one philosophically described as “better than being in jail.” Baskerville cites one case of a father being hospitalized for malnutrition because he was not left enough money to feed himself adequately.
The U.S. now has a larger percentage of its population behind bars than any other nation in the world. How many of these prisoners are fathers jailed for nonpayment of child support? For some reason, the Bureau of Justice Statistics will not tell us. We do know that proposals are being made for relieving prison overcrowding by constructing special detention camps for fathers.
Public relations campaigns are being devised to put a more acceptable face upon what is happening. A Virginia enforcement director describes the fathers he pursues as “clients” and “customers” who “are entitled to have the benefit of child support services.” Robert Williams’s company has “customer service units . . . for fostering cooperation with each customer” and “[s]pecialized customer service centers . . . for increasing responsiveness to customers.” Baskerville dryly comments: “These . . . entrepreneurs neglect to mention that customers who choose not to patronize their establishments will be arrested.”
In January 2000, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala proudly announced that “federal and state child support enforcement program broke new records in nationwide collections in fiscal year 1999, reaching $15.5 billion, nearly double the amount collected in 1992.” At the same time, collections have gone down when measured as a percentage of what the government claims fathers “owe.” The reason? Interest and arrearages created by Williams’s guidelines are piled up on the heads of fathers faster than actual money can be squeezed out of them. Most of this fictitious debt can never be collected, of course.
The “domestic violence” we hear so much about is essentially just another aspect of the divorce game. When a woman leaves her husband, she is routinely advised to accuse him of “abuse,” whether of herself or the children. No evidence is necessary; the husband is hauled off to prison and forbidden most types of contact with his family. Courts themselves sponsor seminars on how to fabricate accusations, and there are no penalties for perjury.
Baskerville notes that the literature on “domestic violence” evinces no concern with prosecuting men directly for violent acts. Indeed, were men beating their wives, there would be no need for a special category of violence labeled “domestic”; they could simply be prosecuted for battery under the same laws that apply to other cases. The complaint of “domestic violence” activists is almost exclusively that “abusers” might retain custody or visitation rights for their children. They speak ominously of the “batterers” making “threats of kidnapping.” This simply means that involuntarily divorced fathers want their children back.
It is important to note that terms such as abuse, violence, and battery do not, in the surreal world of feminism and divorce law, have their traditional English meanings. As early as 1979, feminists were writing of men who battered their wives “by ignoring [them] and by working late.” Today, women are instructed that abuse includes “name-calling,” “giving you negative looks,” “ignoring your opinions,” and (most revealingly, in my view) “refusing to let you have money.” The U.S. Department of Justice has declared that “undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth” is domestic violence and hence a federal crime.
The usual fate of a man charged with “abuse” is to receive a restraining order (sometimes called an order of protection). This is a decree issued from the bench without evidence being presented and without the man being summoned to speak in his own defense; it prohibits a wide range of otherwise legal behavior. It declares the man a criminal and subject to arrest should he continue to live peacefully in his own home or associate with his own children. One law professor notes that “[p]art of the reason the order exists is to be violated.” Even if no evidence exists to convict him, “the protection order can provide the basis for criminal liability on the more easily proven crime of violating the order.”
Restraining orders are said to be doled out “like candy” to all who apply. Fathers who contact their children are prosecuted for “stalking,” an offense the government defines as any “nonconsensual communication.” (Try accusing the IRS of stalking you.) Even fathers for whom child visitation rights have been established remain under restraining orders which, like tripwires, can trigger arrest for the most innocent behavior. Acts for which fathers have been charged include opening an apartment door so a five-year-old son could ring the bell for his mother, putting a note in a son’s suitcase to inform the mother he had been sick during his visit, and attending music recitals, sports events, or church services at which their children were present.
Judges issue these orders because there are negative consequences for them if they do not. Federally funded feminist groups publish the names of judges who persist in trying to observe due process. A Maine judge was removed from the bench for “lack of sensitivity” to women applying for restraining orders. One retired judge says his colleagues see the harm being done, but “remain quiet due to the political climate.”
Cases have gotten into the news of husbands attacking their estranged wives “despite being under a restraining order.” Baskerville asks us to consider whether such men might not be attacking their wives because of the restraining orders. These tyrannical acts have much the character of a deliberate provocation. One journalist writes: “It’s amazing there aren’t more rampages.” Of course, to feminists, this “male violence” simply proves the need for more restraining orders: An ideology is unfalsifiable.
There are now “supervised visitation centers” where fathers are made to pay up to $80 an hour to see their children. “People yell at you in front of the children,” says one father; “they try to degrade the father in the child’s eyes.” “Even hugging your own children could end your visit,” says another. There are cameras on the walls, and social workers armed with clipboards observe the fathers minutely. The Boston Globe reports: “Visitation centers are becoming so popular with family court judges . . . that certain centers . . . have waiting lists up to a year long. That has led to visits being cut short to accommodate other families.”
Special “integrated domestic violence courts” are now being established to expedite convictions. “There is no presumption of innocence, hearsay evidence is admissible and defendants have no right to face their accusers. One study found there was no possibility that a defendant could be found innocent, since all persons arrested . . . received some punishment.” Prosecutors pile up charges to encourage plea-bargaining; in other words, innocent men plead guilty to lesser charges in an attempt to avoid having their lives entirely ruined.
“Battered women’s shelters” are another institution of the divorce industry, no longer bearing any relation to what their name appears to signify. Rather than providing first aid and other physical relief to women brutalized by their husbands, they are “one stop divorce shops.” They assist women in fabricating abuse and incest allegations against their husbands and provide “letters of endorsement” for use against fathers in family court. Women report the use of high-pressure tactics to get them to divorce their husbands; one called a shelter “an experience from hell; the message was you believe what we believe, you do what we say, or get out of here.” Many shelters are lesbian covens where heterosexual volunteers are forbidden to discuss their wedding plans with coworkers.
The great irony about the entire abuse industry is that child abuse is much more likely to occur in the fatherless homes now being created in unprecedented numbers. Sometimes it is perpetrated by the mother’s new boyfriends, but very often by the mother herself. HHS studies report that “children in mother-only households were three times more likely to be fatally abused [murdered] than children in father-only households. Females were 78% of the perpetrators of fatal child abuse [murder] and 81% of natural parents who seriously abuse their children.” One writer says “although, as a literary theme, the ‘good father’ protecting his children from the ‘bad mother’ is almost unheard of (so idealized has mothering become), in real life fathers have often played the protector role inside families.” In other words, the abuse industry is depriving children of their natural protectors and fostering more abuse.
Perhaps we may most appropriately conclude this (very incomplete) survey of divorce industry horrors by noting the effects on the children themselves. One study based on interviews with children of divorce reported that they
expressed the wish for increased contact with their fathers with a startling and moving intensity. . . . The most striking response among six-to-eight-year-old children was their pervasive sadness. The impact of separation appeared so strong that the children’s usual defenses and coping strategies did not hold sufficiently under stress. Crying and sobbing were not uncommon. . . . More than half of these children missed their father acutely. Many felt abandoned and rejected by him and expressed their longing in ways reminiscent of grief for a dead parent. . . . In confronting the despair and sadness of these children and their intense, almost physical, longing for the father, it was evident that inner psychological needs of great power and intensity were being expressed.
Inevitably, there has been talk of “reforming” the system—not least by its beneficiaries, who speak of wanting to make it more “efficient.” Why we should wish to see children removed from their fathers’ care more “efficiently” they do not tell us. The government is fertile with “responsible fatherhood” programs, “healthy marriage” initiatives, “defense of marriage” acts, and suchlike. These should fool no one who has read Dr. Baskerville’s book attentively; they are nothing but further occasions for extending governmental power and patronage while deceiving the public. The next time you hear a politician promise to “strengthen” your marriage or family, pay no attention.
What must be done is clear. In the words of columnist Kathleen Parker: “The divorce industry has to be dismantled, burned and buried like the monster it is.”
Now we must consider the means for accomplishing this.
One researcher reports being told the same thing in several cities: “Shoot the judges and lawyers!” A few men do more than talk. “Statistics are scarce [why?], but judges and lawyers nationwide agree from all the stories they hear about fatal shootings, bombings, knifings, and beatings that family law is the most dangerous area in which to practice,” reports a law journal. According to the Boston Globe, judges now carry guns under their robes to protect themselves from fathers. Baskerville asserts that metal detectors were installed in courthouses specifically from fear of fathers. Previous attacks upon family court judges, he notes, went mostly unreported in the press [why?], but the June 2006 shooting of a Nevada judge received international attention. The full gravity of the situation is finally penetrating the public’s consciousness. The author pointedly asks “what judges and lawyers expect when they set about the business of taking away people’s children.”
Indeed, he is neither exaggerating nor using metaphor when, in the book’s subtitle, he describes the regime’s campaign against fathers as a war. The male obligation to military service—i.e., to die or kill under certain circumstances if called upon—has traditionally been based upon a man’s obligation to protect his family; the duty of national defense is derived from this, as the nation is itself derived from the family. In the author’s words, “this is precisely what fathers are for: to become violent when someone interferes with their children.”
Individual acts of revenge, heartwarming though they may be to read about, will not put an end to the system. The liquidation of the divorce regime can only be accomplished by organized political force. The criminals and parasites who make up the divorce industry have a big head start; they are highly organized, well-funded (largely by their victims), determined, and, in the case of feminists, fanatical. They will fight tooth-and-nail to retain their wealth and power. Fathers, in contrast, are only beginning to awaken to the full extent of the situation and to organize resistance. Dr. Baskerville himself is president of one such organization, the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
His recommendations for reform are all moderate and sensible—that may be their principal failing. They include the enforcement of due process principles as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, a presumption of joint custody, the reform of “no fault” laws to require faithless women (or men) to take responsibility for ending the marriage contract, and holding divorce industry officials accountable for their decisions.
I am unsure why divorce could not simply be abolished as a legal category. There do have to be laws to deal with cases of spousal infidelity and abandonment, of course. Columnist Lloyd Conway has formulated a simple policy for these, which I am unable to improve upon: “If you want to run off with a chorus girl, go ahead—just leave your wallet with Momma. And if the milkman is making special deliveries, then the lovebirds can fill out your child support checks together.” Holding divorce officials responsible for their decisions will be unnecessary when they are made responsible for punching out license plates instead. Legal custody will have less practical importance in the absence of a divorce enforcement regime.
Men, I fear, will have to demand nothing less than the full reestablishment of what feminists call patriarchy—the male-headed family as the normal social unit. This may be a “radical” idea, given how far our society has gone off-track, but it is hardly revolutionary. It is really just the radical restoration of the natural and traditional order of the human family. Baskerville doubts whether a return to father custody can “find acceptance beyond the fringe of political debate.” I think he is mistaken about this. There is no such thing as a fixed “fringe” to political debate. One of the most important forms of political activity consists precisely in moving the fringe. It took much more determination on the part of homosexuals to get us to where “gay marriage” is discussed with a straight face than it would for normal men to restore the presumption of father custody. Indeed, I suspect that men, once politically united, could dictate almost any terms they wished to women.
There are interesting times ahead for men. The course we must embark on is dangerous, but it is less dangerous than continuing to do nothing.
TOQ, vol. 7, no. 2 (Summer 2007)